GUEST COMMENTARY: Suicide Bombers are Murderers, Not Martyrs

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As terrorists seem to be competing in the barbarity of their vicious attacks across the globe, the question of why people would do such a thing _ although frequently asked _ fails to lose relevance. To this day, Americans continue to ask “why do they hate us?” when it comes to the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001. It is a natural question.

The Holy See Is Going Green

c. 2007 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The Holy See announced earlier this month that it would soon become the world’s first “carbon neutral” sovereign state, planting trees in a Hungarian national park to offset the carbon-dioxide emissions and energy use of Vatican City. It was only the latest of several recent statements and actions by the Roman Catholic Church’s leaders that reflect an increasingly prominent concern for ecology. Over the last few months, the Vatican has sponsored a two-day conference on climate change, and Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders have called for more attention to environmental problems. In June, Vatican officials announced that they would cover the papal audience hall adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica with photovoltaic panels that will make it possible to heat, cool and light the building exclusively with solar power.

Coffee Hour At Church Takes On a New Twist

c. 2007 Religion News Service MIDLAND, Mich. _ Messiah Lutheran Church’s drive-through coffee cafe _ the first such venture in Michigan’s Saginaw Valley _ is the latest twist on reaching the masses. Housed inside a 4,900-square-foot section in the front of the church, the cafe, called “journeys,” offers a full line of Italian-style and espresso lattes, mochas, plus pastries and cookies. The hope is to appeal to younger folks and others alienated by more traditional religious approaches.

Grand jury refuses to indict doctor for patient deaths after Katrina

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ Closing one of the most sensational chapters in post-Katrina New Orleans, Dr. Anna Pou said she fell to her knees and thanked God when she learned Tuesday (July 24) that a grand jury had refused to charge her with murdering patients in Memorial Medical Center in the days after the hurricane struck. Speaking in a voice choked with emotion, Pou did not smile or gloat over the end of an ordeal that began when she and two nurses were arrested a year ago. “This is not a triumph, but a moment of remembrance for those who lost their lives during the storm and those who stayed at their posts to serve those in need,” she said. Pou still faces four civil suits in connection with the deaths, but her colleagues cheered the end of the criminal case.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Interfaith Leaders Commend North Korean Nuclear Pact (RNS) An interfaith coalition of religious leaders is congratulating the Bush administration for reaching an agreement with North Korea to shutdown its nuclear weapons facilities. “The agreement with North Korea demonstrates the value of diplomacy in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons,” the leaders said in a statement released Tuesday. The statement was signed by Catholic and Episcopal bishops as well as Presbyterian, evangelical and Muslim leaders. “It validates the preferential use of words, rather than war, as a response to conflict.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Vatican Appeals To Stop Execution of Georgia Man (RNS) The Vatican is appealing to U.S. officials to commute the death sentence of a Georgia man convicted of killing a police officer in 1989. Saying that a number of key witnesses have recanted their testimonies, the Vatican embassy in Washington sent a letter to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, requesting clemency for Troy Anthony Davis, 38. “In the name of Pope Benedict XVI, I am respectfully asking you to commute Troy’s sentence to life in prison without parole,” wrote Vatican diplomat Monsignor Martin Krebs. Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Mark MacPhail, a Savannah police officer.

Asian Christians Take Scriptural Themes to Art

c. 2007 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ If Nalini Jayasuriya, Sawai Chinnawong, Nyoman Darsane, He Qi and Wisnu Sasongko are not household names in the Western art world, they are still better known in the West than in their own countries. These five contemporary Asian artists are all Christians, working as members of a minority religious tradition on a continent where Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam command the largest share of loyalty. That has not stopped these artists from producing biblically inspired art that expresses deeply held religious beliefs. Those purchasing their art are generally Western collectors or Christian churches or institutions.

Islamic Banking Bilks the Pious, Critics Say

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Rizwan Kadir liked working in finance, but when he read a verse in the Quran that said engaging in usury was the same as “waging war” against God and Islam’s prophet Muhammad, fear struck him. “When you come across an aya (verse) like this, it makes you start wondering what you’re doing with your life,” said Kadir, an investment banker in Chicago. He started reading about Islamic views on interest and talking to workers at Islamic banks that offered interest-free finance as a foundation of their business. Kadir eventually concluded that the prohibition on interest didn’t jibe with Islamic logic and that the “interest free” arrangements touted by Islamic banks were just usury under another name.

COMMENTARY: Learning to Live Small in the Big City

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) My adjustment to being a resident of New York City, as opposed to a frequent visitor, began with donning the New York Yankees cap my eldest son gave me at a welcome lunch. That wasn’t a small adjustment for a longtime Boston Red Sox fan. Next adjustments were picnicking in Central Park past sundown, shopping on Broadway at 9:30 p.m., and buying groceries in amounts small enough to be hand-carried five blocks. The biggest adjustment, and most surprising, has to do with space.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Government of El Salvador Supports Beatification of Murdered Archbishop (RNS) The government of El Salvador said it will ask the Vatican to beatify Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero, but that it’s not responsible for his assassination. David Morales, a Salvadoran church representative, said the government’s support is a “smoke screen” intended to obscure its decision not to overturn a 1993 amnesty that released the man convicted of Romero’s murder, according to The Associated Press. Beatification is an official recognition by the church that a person has ascended into heaven and is capable of interceding on behalf of the faithful who pray in his or her name. It is also often a first step toward sainthood.

`Saving Grace’ Blends Sacred and Profane

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Is the world ready for an R-rated drama about angels? For a gritty crime drama that’s one part “NYPD Blue” for every part “Touched by an Angel”? In “Saving Grace” a new television drama which was to begin broadcasting Monday on TNT, a troubled Oklahoma City cop played by Holly Hunter gets some divine help in the form of a scruffy, tobacco-chewing angel. We meet Grace while she’s having sex with her partner Ham _ her married partner, I might add.

Tammy Faye Messner, Ex-Wife of Fallen Televangelist, Dies at 65

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Tammy Faye Messner, the ex-wife of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker whose heavy makeup and emotive personality became prominent features on the face of their televised Christian ministry, died Friday (July 20) at her home near Kansas City, Mo. Messner was 65. “She died peacefully in her home,” said a statement from her family. “A family service was held graveside in a private cemetery where Tammy’s ashes have been interred.

Actor Plays Divine Role for More than 35 Years

c. 2007 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly VIENNA, Va. _ Ted Neeley has played the title role in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” stage for 36 years. That’s longer than Jesus’ own life on earth, according to many scholars. “Don’t anyone believe that I am Jesus Christ,” Neeley says.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2007 Religion News Service Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Sees Membership Decline (RNS) The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America saw a slight drop in membership in 2006, continuing a trend of decline of more than a decade. The total of baptized members at the end of 2006 was 4,774,203, a 1.6 percent decrease from the 2005 total of 4,850,776, denomination officials said. The denomination has lost about 466,000 baptized members in the last 16 years, said the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary. In 1990, there were 5,240,739 members.

The Great Commission 2.0: Online Children’s Ministry

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For kids these days, Internet security is hard to come by. But for kids concerned about eternal security, the Net’s precisely the place to be. Dozens of Christian groups are rethinking flannel graphs and 10 a.m. Sunday school classes, finding that there may be a bigger, better way to fulfill the Great Commission _ just add wireless. Children of non-religious parents who may be discouraged from attending church can often connect with church ministries on the Web, said Emily Trotter,who manages the Web site for Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF).